While Rep. Todd Akin continues to get press for his ignorant comments about “legitimate rape”, he also demonstrates tremendous ignorance about marijuana. One of his Missouri constituents sent him a letter urging support for marijuana legalization, and the following excerpts are from Rep. Akin’s response.
I oppose the legalization of marijuana for three reasons. First, legalization sends a harmful message that tends to legitimize drug abuse. The government should not undermine parents’ efforts to raise morally discerning children by sending a strong message to teenagers about the acceptability of mind-altering substances.
In Rep. Akin’s six terms in office, he has taken $90,450 in campaign contributions from the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Anheuser-Busch Imbev. Those companies manufacture and distribute an acceptable mind-altering substance that contributes to “over a third of the rapes or sexual assaults” and “3 out of 4 incidents” of domestic violence in America, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Somehow the legality of alcohol and Rep. Akin’s support for it is not undermining the efforts of parents, as teen drinking is at its lowest recorded levels ever.
Second, many people who argue for the legalization of marijuana greatly understate the physiological effects of this drug. The intoxicant in marijuana, THC, appears to have mild effects because it is fat-soluble and slow-acting. However, THC stored in fatty tissue continues to affect the brain for a long time after the “high” wears off. This is why regular pot smokers feel and appear continuously distracted and unfocused. THC can remain in the fat of a regular smoker for months after he quits. This intoxicant can cause serious and lasting harm to the brain, the hormones, the lungs, and the reproductive organs of a smoker.
In Rep. Akin’s world, not only do ladyparts somehow act like bouncers to beat back rape sperm, but lungs somehow act like K-Mart and put THC on layaway. Here’s the science: when you smoke pot, the THC is metabolized by the lungs nearly instantaneously. The “high” you’ll feel last at most an hour. The levels of active THC in the blood stream fall below levels associated with impairment for most people within four hours.
What Rep. Akin has done is confused THC with the THC metabolite. After one has been high, there remains a molecule called THC-COOH, which is fat soluble. That’s the molecule urine tests are seeking to find employees to fire or not hire, and it does last for days or weeks in most smokers, but the metabolite is non-impairing. Rep. Akin has also ignored most of the scientific studies on marijuana and cognition that show even long-term pot smokers show no ill-effect on their attention and focus when not using cannabis.
The final sentence of the paragraph is just silly. THC is absolutely non-toxic to healthy cells and organs, which is why there is no possible way to die from overdose of it. Smoking marijuana can lead to persistent cough, but studies have shown marijuana smoking does not lead to increase risk of head, neck, and lung cancer or chronic breathing problems.
Third, and most importantly, I oppose the legalization of marijuana because it is a gateway drug. While not all pot smokers go on to use harder drugs, virtually everyone who abuses cocaine or heroin begins by smoking marijuana. In the Netherlands, the liberalization of drug laws has resulted in the proliferation of harder drugs, prostitution, and violent crime as users seek greater highs and new ways to feed their habit.
While not all toddlers who ride tricycles go on to become Hell’s Angels, virtually every Hell’s Angel rode a tricycle as a toddler. The gateway theory is the zombie of reefer madness, it just will not die no matter how many times it is disproved, even by our own government’s Institute of Health.
In the Netherlands, cannabis use and hard drug use are at levels half or less than those of the United States. What the Dutch learned is that the only gateway involved in the marijuana market is when unregulated marijuana dealers also have hard drugs to sell. Moving marijuana into the coffee shops where it could be watched and tolerated by authorities reduced the problems they had with street drug dealing. And now as a reactionary right-wing government institutes Dutch-only rules for coffee shops on the border, these towns are seeing a return of the old street dealing problems.
Likewise, I am not sympathetic with attempts to legalize marijuana for medical use. THC is already available in pill form with a doctor’s prescription. Thus, there is no legitimate medical need for raw marijuana. I see these initiatives as ill-advised attempts to legitimize this harmful drug.
That’s the second and third time Rep. Akin has used a form of the word “legitimate”. It seems like his compassion for people is dependent on his evaluation of their legitimacy. So how is it, sir, that THC is legitimate in a pill form but illegitimate in its raw form?
Once again, Rep. Akin is ignorant of the science. THC in pill form is known as dronabinol or Marinol. Remember our lesson above on THC in the lungs? The fact that it works nearly instantaneously leads to a benefit known as self-titration, the ability of the patient to regulate his or her own dosage. Because when you smoke, you feel it now, and you smoke until you’ve gotten the medicinal benefit you need from pain, spasticity, seizures, or nausea.
Speaking of nausea, that’s the other reason why smoked raw marijuana is superior to the THC pill – have you ever tried to swallow and keep down a pill when puking from chemotherapy? THC absorbed through the stomach, unlike the lungs, takes up to 30-45 minutes to digest and make it into the bloodstream. By then, you’ll know if you took too much for comfort or too little for medicinal benefit, which will then require another 30-45 minutes after your second pill to take effect. Have you ever waited through 60-90 minutes of a migraine headache?
We already have enough problems in the Senate with people who won’t recognize basic science. I hope the good people of Missouri don’t promote another scientifically clueless politician from the House to the United States Senate.